World stocks paused on Monday after a strong recent run, as potential flashpoints including a crucial Brexit summit and central bank meetings loomed, and investors began to look ahead to an earnings season that may be disappointing.
Signs of further stimulus from China helped Asian shares touch seven-month highs, but investors’ enthusiasm was fleeting.
MSCI’s world equity index was flat and European stocks slipped 0.2 per cent as weak data from Germany and investor caution ahead of a string of political and monetary policy events held the market back.
In a document published on the central government’s website late on Sunday, Beijing said it would step up a policy of targeted cuts to banks’ required reserve ratios to encourage financing for small and medium-sized businesses.
German exports and imports both fell more than expected in February, data showed on Monday, in the latest sign that Europe’s largest economy will likely have meagre growth in the first quarter amid increased headwinds from abroad.
Futures for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq eased 0.2 per cent, indicating a weaker start on Wall Street.
Globally, stock markets have had a stellar first quarter.
The MSCI All-Country World index had its best quarter in more than eight years.
“Today’s very minor move down has to be seen in light of recent developments,” said Britta Weidenbach, head of European equities at DWS.
“We’re back at the levels where the correction started last year. So now the question certainly is, what’s next?”
The European Central Bank will update the market on Wednesday, the same day as a crucial European Union Summit on Brexit, while China and the EU will hold a summit on trade on Tuesday.
“European institutions will be under the spotlight in the coming days as they attempt to display proactivity in trade negotiations, on Brexit and in monetary policy,” wrote economists at Swiss private bank Landolt & Cie in a note to clients.